The Disney Merchandise Money Train

So I just got back from a week trip to Orlando, Florida to check out Universal Studios and the Disney parks. Now that the stage has been set . . .

disney-merchandise-moneyDid you know that Disney makes a lot of money? Of course you did but did you know that since Cars came out in 2006 they have made 8 billion dollars on merchandise sales alone? The movie, surprisingly only made $500 million internationally but they couldn’t care in the slightest. In fact, they could have given movie tickets away for free and still be laughing.

Disney merchandise is both absolutely thievery (from a paying parent’s perspective) and complete brilliance (from a business perspective). Walking around the parks you quickly discover that for every ride and attraction there are 2 or 3 gift shops. Most attractions exit directly into either a gift shop or arcade to make it easier for the kids to start their “mommy please” chants. These chants are parents’ number 1 weakness and wreaks unbelievable havoc on their wallets.

I learned many things on my vacation to the parks:

  1. Most things in the U.S. are relatively cheap (booze, food etc.)
  2. You could buy a brand new car for the price of a family’s share of Disney merchandise

It might seem crazy but after visiting 3 parks I walked away without a single souvenir. My reasoning is simple: souvenir or not, a small fridge magnet is not worth $8, a tiny figurine is not worth $24.95 and a Harry Potter wand (read: tiny piece of wood) is not worth $32 – this last one is almost laughable.

disney-merchandise-money-trainFor those interested, there is a business lesson here. There is a lot of money to be made by attracting consumers and upselling them but more importantly – sell to kids. Sell, sell, sell, sell, sell to kids. If you can capture the kids attention you’ve got money in the bank. Harry Potter is even more brilliant because it attracts both younger audiences and slightly older audiences that have disposable income. Genius. Is it too late to invest in Disney???

Burns’ Family Vacation–Trip to Mexico


Ken and Trudy Burns, my girlfriend’s parents, were kind enough to take the (extended) family on a trip down to Mexico. Let the adventures begin!

We stayed a the Gran Bahia Principe in the Mayan Riviera.




Starting from me (with the hat) and going clockwise: Joanne, Teresa, Elizabeth, Rose, Trudy, Ken, Peter, Hannah, Karly, Rosemary.

Having been to Cuba and Dominican before, I was used to having wildlife run rampant on the resorts. In Mexico, we saw plenty of lizards soaking up the sun around the resort. Rosey thought they might even taste good!


One of the highlights of the trip, was getting the opportunity to visit one of the wonders of the world: The Chichen Itza. Chichen Itza is the name of the area where the Mayan’s used to inhabit. The main feature of Chichen Itza is the pyramid of Kukulkan – seen below





On the way to Chichen Itza we also stopped to go swimming in a cenote; basically an underground flow of fresh water. The water was surprisingly warm and jam packed with fish (most of which seemed like catfish of some sort).




We found a McDonald’s there, and of course we had to go. Rosey has been trying to go to a McDonald’s in as many countries as possible.


There was plenty of entertainment, both at night and during the day. We went to Playa del Carmen were we went to Señor Frogs, a really fun bar with plenty of dancing staff. Some of the highlights of the entertainment:




And of course I got called up on stage again          

Most nights we went out for dinner as a group and had access to a number of À la carte restaurants throughout our stay. Sometimes we even d

ressed up!


Needless to say, the beach was incredible and no matter how much time you spend on it, it just doesn’t seem like it’s enough.


Phoenix Arizona–STAFDA Tradeshow–November 2010


     We left the cold weather for Phoenix on Nov 7th, 2010 starting what would be a set of adventures down south. The reason for the journey? A business trip to the 2010 STAFDA  (Specialty Tools and Fasteners Distributors Association) tradeshow to represent Blue Link Associates Ltd. IMG_0883IMG_0889











     The tradeshow itself was gargantuan, with what must have been thousands of attendees and hundreds of exhibitors. Overall it was a success with Genevieve Woo and myself having the opportunity to chat with a number of prospects and making some friends along the way.

     That is the end of that story as the majority of our adventures happened outside of business hours. We learned a lot about the city of Phoenix but here are a few of the main takeaways:

– The downtown is dead and you have to travel far to find things to do

– Finding your way around the city via transit is hit or miss at best

– The people down there are surprisingly very nice but oddly know nothing about their own city

– People openly carry weapons and if you end up on the wrong side of town, you could be in serious danger



Their light rail system that we could not figure out for the life of us. Not to mention that none of the residents new either.


     On the first night we got to see all the beauty of the city. Clearly one with heavy roots in art as there were interesting outdoor displays all over the city including a towering wire tornado piece.


     After the conference was over a number of the bigger tool manufacturers such as Milwaukee held parties for those attending the conference. The party was held on the hotel terrace with a live band which turned out to be quite the party. The highlight of the night was meeting Cain Velasquez, the new UFC heavy-weight champion of the world.



     Throughout the party they were playing football on the bigscreen (I cannot stress how much they are obsessed with football down there) and then played the video of Cain beating Brock Lesnar in a controversial and completely unexpected victory.














     It was unfortunate to discover that Cain lacked a personality and seemed to really hate signing autographs and meeting fans but perhaps you was just tired and out of it.

     Once we finally found the nightlife it was phenomenal! We ended up in Tempe an area of Phoenix where the main campus of ASU sits. By one bartenders account there are over 60,000 students in the area (turns out their are actually over 70,000). Enough students to make their Monday nights look like our Fridays.

     The bar we went to was called School of Rock which was like nothing I had seen before. Beer was $1, the bartender was doing bar tricks and the female bartender was, well . . . wearing essentially nothing. Surely they were both making phenomenal tips.


     The bar was complete with pole-dancing girls (not strippers, just the regular bar crowd) and some of the best mix of music I have ever heard at a club. All that combined with the cheap alcohol made it one hell of an experience.













     We went with local exotic food whenever we could getting our fair share of south-western. The highlight meal was a platter consisting of snake, cactus, buffalo, and trout spread:


IMG_1034Only problem was, the cactus made me brutally ill to the point where I wonder if I have an allergy to it. Future cactus eaters, you have been warned


     Our adventures through Arizona led us to Sedona, a nearby tourist town surrounded by mountains where we had a guide show us around. His name was Mike and I believe the company was Southwest Tours. I highly recommend that if you are in the area that you give him a shot. He knew everything about everything. We also had a great crew along with us  on the tour. The only problem was one of the Singaporean women who proceeded to vomit non-stop throughout the tour.


     As part of the tour we did some hiking along the mountain trail and came some of the wildlife as well as a stream that ran through the mountains











     Near the end of the tour we were taken up to the peak of one of the nearby mountains that overlooked the city. Needless to say, the view was second-to-none.